In these days of unrest in certain parts of the country sometimes our natural sensitivity is to stay away and avoid controversy -- we might lean towards not saying anything when we get into uncomfortable conversations.
We are called as Catholics to speak out and share our beliefs in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the recurring comments I hear in my parish has been "What is the New Evangelization?" and "How can I do it?" This question touches on the important theme that the Catholic Church in Boston has focused on since Cardinal Sean issued his Pastoral Letter on Evangelization in June 2011: "A New Pentecost: Inviting All To Follow Jesus."
The question parishioners are asking is "How can we do this?"
The comments are very timely. If we take a minute and sort through the national headlines from just this past week, it becomes clear that all Americans are facing threats to our core beliefs as Catholics and as Americans. America is founded on the principles of equality and freedom and the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us love and forgiveness -- neither have any room for hatred and violence.
The white nationalists and Neo-Nazi's and other groups that espouse hatred of non-whites and practice racism -- specifically and loudly state that they demand the superiority of whites over Muslims, Jews, Blacks and all other races.
Cardinal Sean in his statement released last week in The Pilot provides a clear message. "As a nation in the past century we led the struggle against the pagan ideas of Nazism. Those who seek to resurrect a new form of Nazism and extreme nationalism -- those who denigrate African Americans, who preach and practice anti-Semitism, who disparage Muslims, those who threaten and seek to banish immigrants in our land -- all these voices dishonor the basic convictions of the American political and constitutional traditions. They must be opposed in word and deed."
All Catholics, including parishioners in Boston where the roots of our core beliefs of inalienable rights for every person first took hold, are called to live out our Gospel message every day. In these days of unrest in certain parts of the country sometimes our natural sensitivity is to stay away and avoid controversy -- we might lean towards not saying anything when we get into uncomfortable conversations. When we hear someone -- maybe even a friend -- say something that we feel is off base or when what we hear just makes us uncomfortable because it differs significantly from our beliefs we can make a choice to overlook it or let it go.
Is that what we should we do? The easiest thing to do it might be to pretend we didn't hear anything or ignore the comment. What are we called to do as Catholics?
The Gospel teaches us to speak out and share the message of love and respect that Jesus showed to everyone. We are charged to "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord" at the end of every Mass. We know that we are called to love one another and to help others when we can. So why don't we always do it?
Some of the Gospel teachings we do very well -- our actions are almost automatic -- like helping our neighbors who have felt the need to ask for some assistance through the St. Vincent DePaul Society in parishes that have a chapter. When you put money in their baskets after Mass or bring bags of groceries when they have a food drive you are doing the work of the Gospel. In regularly performing these works of mercy we might not see the need or feel the duty to "oppose in word and deed" the acts of hatred and violence we witness on the six o'clock news.
The death this week of Heather Heyer, a Christian, who felt that she needed to stand up to injustice and hatred in her community, should set off alarm bells for us to try to do more about speaking out against the core beliefs of the groups that created the violence and motivated the alleged driver of the car that killed Heather.
"Heather was not about hate, Heather was about stopping hatred," Heather's mother said in an interview with the Huffington Post. "Heather was about bringing an end to injustice."
Heather set an example for all of us. Just as important as the donations we make every week and the Masses we attend and the prayers we offer, we are also called to lift our voices to share the message of Jesus Christ. We are called to interrupt the messages of hate and racism when we hear them. We are called to teach our children why these voices are wrong and evil. We are the voice and the presence of Jesus Christ when we step up and become evangelizers. We are all about the tolerance, acceptance and love we show for others, every day, all the time, in our hearts and through our actions. Our example to others as Roman Catholics empowers others to live out the Gospel virtues of honesty and integrity and love for one another -- especially our young people who are looking for leadership and mentors to follow.
When we remain silent, we lose an opportunity to do the work Jesus Christ is calling us to do.
DEACON TIMOTHY DONOHUE IS A PERMANENT DEACON OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON ASSIGNED TO MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD PARISH IN DOVER AND ST. THERESA OF LISIEUX IN SHERBORN.